After a time Agnes was seen running towards her. She did not come quite as fast as usual, and there was a change in her face. Irene did not know when she saw that change why a sudden sense of fear stole over her. It was as though some one had snatched the heart out of a gem, the glory out of a flower. It was as though little Agnes was no longer the beautiful Agnes she loved. She could not analyze her own feelings. She herself had returned in the best of spirits. Rosamund had been so bright, so cheery, so brave; her mother had been so pleased at the reports which Irene's different masters and mistresses had given her. All seemed going prosperously and well, and on the way home Rosamund had spoken of Agnes, and said how glad she was that Irene should have the little one to look after, to love and to guide and to cherish. Altogether, Irene was in her most softened mood, and she had brought back to Sunnyside several old toys of her own which she had rooted out of a cupboard in the long-disused nursery. They would charm little Agnes; they had never had any fascination for her.
"But then wages is so high," said the kitchen-maid. "There ain't a place like it in the country round¡ªplenty of us, and half our time our own. What my mother says to me is, 'You must put up with something, Sukey; and if you hadn't Miss Irene you'd have low wages and 'ard work.' So I said I'd grin and bear it."
"You are sending me next week to the Merrimans'," she said. "I don't at all know whether I shall be able to endure it. You think me greatly improved, but I don't know that I am improved. Be that as it may, however, I want to ask you a great favor, mothery."
"Then I congratulate you upon your powers of early rising."
Then, all in a minute, for some reason which she could never define, little Phyllis sprang to her feet hastily, put on her clothes, and without even glancing at Lucy, took Irene's hand.